The Ursuline Lions continued the tradition of Girls Greater Cincinnati League volleyball teams winning local regional titles with a 25-18, 25-8, 14-25, 25-14 win against Lakota East on Saturday at Lebanon High School.
The win marks the 18th straight year and the 34th time in the past 38 years that a GGCL program has won the big school (Class AAA or Division I) Southwest Ohio regional title.
“When I was the coach at Lakota East, I don’t think that I beat a GGCL team one time in nine years,” head coach Jeni Case said, who coached East until taking over at Ursuline in 2006. “Our schedule helps us. We have to play each GGCL team twice every season and I think that just prepares you more for the tournament.”
In fact, the last time a non-GGCL team won the local regional title was Lakota High School in 1994 before the district split into two high schools. Ironically, Ursuline (21-7), ranked No. 6 in the state, defeated No. 9 Lakota West in the regional semifinal before taking on No. 4 Lakota East (24-3).For the Thunderhawks, it was their first time in the school’s 16-year history that they advanced to the regional semifinal. The loss also marks the end of the high school career of one of the state’s top players in Purdue commit Ashley Evans, who finished the match with a game-high 19 kills and 8 digs.
“I never had a player like Ashley Evans in my life,” Case said. “She is just incredible and she is going to be awesome in college.
“We knew we had to shut her down, or at least, as much as possible.”
In addition to Evans, seniors Madeline Garda (Bowling Green commit), Anna Starr (Wright State commit), Carlie Haddad, Danielle Fleming and Ali Lake (Ohio commit, didn’t play due to injury) will leave what was possibly East’s most talented team in school history.
“This is the best senior class that has ever come out of Lakota East and one of the best in the state,” Lakota East head coach Casie Garland said. “I have never seen a group of girls so passionate about the sport of volleyball and it is disappointing to see them fall short today because they deserve it more than any other group in the state.”
But it was Ursuline who played better on Saturday.
Led by Notre Dame commit junior Sam Fry (17 kills, 9 blocks), junior Paige Kebe (10 kills), senior Rachel Garnett (10 kills), senior Abby Weisenberger (41 assists) and senior Courtney Grafton (21 digs), the Lions will be making their 11th appearance at the big school state tournament when they face Toledo’s St. Ursula Academy in a state semifinal match at Wright State’s Nutter Center at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
A win there would advance Ursuline to the state final on Saturday at Wright State, where they will try for their fifth overall state championship and fourth among the big Ohio high schools.